What Is Appropriate Parental Involvement With Homework?

homeworkBy Nicole Girvan, Head of Lower School

Study after study has shown that when parents get involved, kids do better in school. According to the National Education Association, kids with parents who are actively involved in their education earn higher grades, do better on standardized tests, and are more likely to be enrolled in advanced placement programs. Students whose parents are more involved also attend school more regularly, successfully pass more classes, have better social skills, and have a higher overall graduation rate. This is a remarkable set of benefits arising from one small thing: parents who get involved with their child’s education.

However, it’s important to remember that parental involvement takes many forms. Sometimes it’s straightforward, like making sure your child gets to class on time every day. Sometimes involvement is indirect, filling your home with fun, age-appropriate books, for example, so your child grows up with a love of reading. Other times, that involvement is hands off. As they get older, children should naturally take more responsibility for their education. Parents need to encourage that growing level of responsibility by allowing their children an increasing role in making decisions about school — and, yes, letting them accept the consequences of those decisions.

What About Homework, Though?

Homework can be an important part of the learning process — even for the youngest students. Here’s why:

  • It reinforces concepts and ideas introduced in the classroom during the school day.
  • It keeps parents apprised of what their children are learning.
  • It helps kids become independent learners as they organize their homework and find ways to answer any questions that arise.
  • Homework can even help establish the habit of studying at home, a practice that will become more and more important as children move into the higher grades.

However, many parents wonder just how involved they should be in their child’s homework, and what form that involvement should take. Should you answer questions your child asks while doing his or her homework? Should you keep track of homework assignments and whether your child has completed them? The discussion below will answer these questions and others.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Homework Help

When it comes to homework, knowing when you’re helping too much and when you’re helping too little may feel like a high-wire act. Here are some tips that can help you find the right balance:

  • Do stress the importance of school. Children look to their parents to determine what matters in life and what doesn’t. If you present their education as a vital part of growing up, then they will see it as necessary, as well.
  • Don’t do your child’s homework for him or her. We all long to see our children succeed, but part of real success is trying and failing, and then trying again. If your child needs help with homework, show him or her ways to find the answers; don’t merely offer the answers.
  • Do talk with your child’s teacher if it’s taking too long. According to the National Parent Teacher Association, 10 minutes per grade level is a good rule of thumb for homework. A first-grader, for example, should spend no more than 10 minutes per night on homework, a second-grader, no more than 20. If your child’s homework takes longer than this on a regular basis, or if he or she seems to struggle with homework, it’s time to involve his or her teacher.
  • Don’t leave homework time to chance. Having a regular time for homework — right after dinner, for example — and a quiet place to do homework, with all the necessary supplies close at hand, will make incorporating homework time into your child’s regular schedule much more manageable.
  • Do be available during homework time. It’s unreasonable to expect a child to do his or her homework alone, especially in the early grades. Be available to offer encouragement, answer questions and help your child locate any special supplies he or she might need.

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